Quality interview from the April 2 edition of The Jim Rome Show with Trail Blazers starting center Robin Lopez. In the interview, Lopez talks about his birthday celebration, which ride at Disneyland is his favorite, naming all Seven Dwarfs, fitting in as a Portlander, doubting himself after a back injury in Phoenix, the Goonies and being “weird as hell.” There’s also a little basketball in there as well. Lopez also answers a question about Tiger Woods needing a discectomy that I’m fairly certain Lopez misheard as “vasectomy” given the nature of his answer.
It sounds like you had an amazing birthday. You got a double-double, you beat the Lakers, Emmy Rossum was sitting courtside and you went to Disneyland. Was that the best birthday you’ve ever had?
It’s up there. It’s up there. I haven’t had any other celebrity show up on my birthday, so I think it’s going to have to be number one for right now.
It sounds like you had a day. Let me ask you about Disney, because I know you’re a big Disney guy. What is your favorite ride?
Pirates of the Caribbean, no question.
Break that down for me. Why do you like that best?
I think that’s the best example of everything that Disney does so well. The attention to detail, the storyline, everything coming together in perfect synthesis.
I’ve got to think that Team Space Mountain is going to be furious about that. What would you say to them?
It’s up there. I don’t want them to take that comment too hard. Space Mountain has a place in my heart, too. I love Space Mountain. It’s a little rough on me though. I’m kind of tall so it’s a little rough on the knees, but hey, I love it though.
Well said. So the team gets off to a hot start but has been a little up and down since then. But you have won four in a row. Do you feel like you’re playing the type of ball you want to be playing heading into the postseason?
I do. I actually feel, right now, we’re playing the best ball of the season. We’re very focused on both ends and we haven’t really played like this in the sense there have been so few lulls throughout the past four games. Even when we were playing really well, we would play teams pretty close. We would let team back in games, we would have to play from behind. But the past four we’ve been in control for the most part of the game.
It seems like you’re a perfect fit for Portland, not just on the court but off it, almost to the point that it feels like you’ve been there forever, when in reality, you were just traded there last summer. Did you know at the time how good of a match this was going to be?
It’s funny, when I was playing in Phoenix, Channing Frye, who had been in Portland, told me if I visited there, if I went there, I was just going to love it. And I was a little reluctant to believe him just because Channing talks a lot of stuff. But it turns out he’s been 100 percent right. I can’t believe how perfectly the fit has been. It’s a bizarre city, I’m weird as hell. It’s a match made in heaven.
We talk about this almost every single day on and off the air: weird is good. Weird is different. As you look back over your career, who are some of the weirdest guys you’ve played with?
Channing would definitely have to be one of them. I love that guy. He’s into comics just as much as I am, weird movies that you’ve never heard of, all kinds of stuff like that. He holds an annual kickball tournament in Portland every year. My vet was Shaq, and that’s a cool guy but he’s also weird.
Speaking of movies, you were the only Blazer who could name all Seven Dwarfs. How much does it disappoint you that some of the other guys couldn’t even name one?
It is a little heartbreaking. When my contract comes up I’m definitely going to have to search around the league and find that kindred soul who can name all seven. I think that’s going to be a huge breaking point for me.
They couldn’t dig deep? They can’t get Grumpy?
I know, it hurts. I don’t really want to think about it, honestly.
I won’t bring it up again. From a basketball standpoint your coaches, your teammates rave about your game and your attitude and how much better you’ve made them. Terry Stotts has been doing some lobbying for you as the league’s most improved player. You’re not a guy looking to hype yourself but what does that mean to you to hear that from your coach and your teammates?
That gave me so much confidence to go out there and even play better. That’s a beautiful thing about the situation I’m in in Portland. I feel very comfortable, I feel like I have complete freedom out there. And in that situation it’s easy for me to perform.
Was it like that in Phoenix?
It was, but I think it’s different when you’re one or two years in the league. With that injury I wasn’t quite as sure of myself, I lost eight inches off my vertical. It was a combination of factors in Phoenix. I just didn’t have my mind right.
Did you really lose eight inches off your vertical?
Yeah, that’s true. When I had the bulging disk and pinched nerve in my back, I just lost all of my athleticism which, back then especially, was a huge component of my game, couldn’t run up and down the court as quickly. I remember one moment specifically. My third year in preseason I caught the ball off one of Steve’s (Nash} passes and and saw, I think, Tyler Hansbrough under the basket. And I was like “Oh, I’m going to dunk this. I’m going to put him in a bucket.” And I went up and he pinned it right against the backboard and I’m like “What’s going on?”
That’s got to mess with your head, right?
Yeah. There were moments, especially right after the injury, where I was like “Am I not as good? Am I bad at basketball?” It is tough. That said, I had good teammates around me, I had people, good support staff keeping my head up. I just tried to keep working at it.
Nothing against Psycho T — I guess it’s one thing if Dwight Howard does it — but if Psycho T does that maybe it causes to question yourself a little bit. You mention a back and a pinched nerve. Maybe your situation is not the same, but when you see Tiger Woods and what he’s dealing with right now and he needs a discectomy and he swings a golf club for a living, what do you think he’s dealing with physically?
You know, I’m not sure. Unfortunately I’ve never had that many women throw themselves at me, so I don’t think our situations are really comparable.
I don’t think anybody has. The year is so long and when things aren’t going well you’ve got to find a way to deal with it. You had a great tweet after a loss to Charlotte. You wrote “Rough one tonight but got to focus on the next one and Goonies on ABC Fam right now. Never Say Die. Rip City.” Is watching Goonies one of the secrets to getting over a tough loss.
Oh, yes. For sure. There are a lot of good life lessons in that movie. Obviously The Goonies stick together, people don’t always believe in them but they never give up, never say die.
Before you go, who is your favorite Goonie?
My favorite Goonie has to be Data or Mouth. First of all, I think Mouth is definitely Wesley Matthews of our team. Data is probably Nic. I think Mikey would have to be LA because he’s the heart of the team. I would be Chunk.
I was going to say, I thought you were a Chunk guy.
Yeah. Oh, I love Chunk. He claims he saw Michael Jackson, that scene where he’s talking about he’s in a movie theater and he started throwing up and making everybody else throw up. That’s classic stuff right there.
What about Bran?
Bran, that’s rough. Might be Coach Stotts.
How about Sloth?
Sloth? Oh man, I don’t know if I want to put Sloth on anybody. Might be Joel Freeland.
You’ve got an interesting relationship with a number of mascots around the league. It seems like guys don’t want to deal with it or think about it, but you have relationships. How did that start?
You know, it started because I was getting a little abuse from mascots and I really didn’t want to be that guy that was just taking that sitting down, laying on my back. I knew at some point I had to start fighting back. I don’t know if it’s the hair, I look a little goofy, sound a little goofy but i was just a bull’s eye for mascots, So I was like, enough of that, I’m going to go on the aggressive. That doesn’t make grammatical sense, but I think you get the gist.
Makes sense to me. Did that start with the mascot in Detroit? Was that the first time? You guys got into it once.
That’s happened before but that’s the first time that I had to respond. I wasn’t going to take that from him.
Greetings podcast enthusiasts. Between CJ McCollum getting an extension and Moe Harkless signing a new deal, Portland’s roster for the start of the 2016-17 regular season is all but finalized. So it seemed like a good time to hit the studio with Joe Freeman of The Oregonian/OregonLive.com to record yet another edition of the Rip City Report podcast, which you can listen to below…
On this edition, we discuss the near-max extension for McCollum and the four-year, roughly $40 million contract for Harkless, which directions Terry Stotts might go in terms of starting lineups and minutes allocations, the news that both Al-Farouq Aminu and Festus Ezeli will forego playing for Nigeria at the 2016 Summer Olympics, give a quick rundown of the preseason schedule and answer your Twitter-submitted questions.
Last weekend, Trail Blazers guard CJ McCollum and his older brother, Errick, were guests on ESPN’s SportsCenter to discuss, amongst other things, The Basketball Tournament, which is billed as a “open application, 5-on-5, single-elimination, winner-take-all basketball tournament” in which the winning team takes home $2 million in prize money. Errick’s team, Overseas Elite, won the tournament last year and are in the finals, which airs Tuesday at 4 PM Pacific on ESPN, again this year.
But the tournament wasn’t the only topic of conversation, as any time you get two brothers together, you’re contractually obligated to ask them which is mom’s favorite. One one had, CJ still lives with his mom, so you might assume he’s the got the No. 1 son ranking sewn up, but it sounds like Errick was the much better behaved child and mom’s tend to have long memories, so it sounds like it’s a bit of a tossup.
“CJ, he was a good kid,” said Errick, “he just liked to get into things. He was really physical. She couldn’t take him around any other kids or he would, like, get into little altercations with them because he just played too rough.”
Sounds about right.
On Thursday, Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts was a guest on The Doug Gottlieb Show on CBS Sports Radio. Over the 15 minute conversation, Stotts discusses LeBron James saying he would have been his pick for 2016 NBA Coach of the Year, Kevin Durant signing as a free agent with the Golden State Warriors, the notion of “super teams” in the NBA, having confidence in your players and his participation in the Men’s Wearhouse National Suit Drive.
You can listen to the entire interview here, though I’m transcribed a portion which you can read below…
On LeBron James saying Stotts should have been Coach of the Year:
“To be honest, it felt pretty good. I have a lot of respect obviously for LeBron, what he does and what he’s done in his career, but for him to come out and say that, it made me feel good.”
On Cleveland winning the NBA Finals after being down 3-1 to Golden State:
“Obviously it was historical. A lot of things went into it, but when a team can do that and to win two games on the road being down 3-1, it’s really remarkable. It just put an end to a historical season as it was with Golden State and what they did during the regular season, the way they came back against Oklahoma City and then for Cleveland to do that, it was just remarkable. I thought it was a remarkable season to begin with and it finished that way.”
On Kevin Durant signing with the Warriors:
“My first reaction was he earned the right to be a free agent. I know a lot of thought went into it and it wasn’t a decision that he took lightly. I know he took a lot of criticism for making that decision but I think he earned that right to make whatever decision he felt was best for him. I think it’s going to be interesting with Golden State. Obviously defending them is going to be a challenge because — we talked about versatility — they were already an extremely talented offensive team and he’s going to make them better. They’re going to be a different team than they were last year, they’re not going to have the big guys. When you lose Festus Ezeli, who is on our team now, and Andre Bogut and Maurice Speights, the look of their frontline is going to be different. But I think they could be just as good just because of what they’ll be able to do at the offensive end.”
His thoughts on “super teams” in the NBA:
“You know, I don’t know if it’s good or bad for the league. I’ve just kind of accepted that that’s the way things are. I know people have made comparisons when LeBron went to Miami and that was supposedly the first super team and they won two championships, but it’s not like there was a five year, seven year run dynasty. When you get out on the court, you still have to play the games. Obviously Golden State is going to be very good, but you’ve got to play an 82-game season, you’ve got to go through four series to win a championship. I think the league does thrive on star power, whether it’s star power within a team or having a team be a star. I don’t know, I think the league is doing extremely well, I think it’s extremely popular. I think this is just another story that people are going to be interested in.”
On having confidence in shooters like Allen Crabbe and CJ McCollum:
“I’m a big believer in confidence when shooting. It probably goes back to my freshman year in college when I didn’t know whether to shoot or (laughs) you know the phrase. But anyway, I’m a big believer in confidence and Allen and CJ are two different categories. CJ struggled with injuries his first two years and was trying to get incorporated into a roster that was winning 50 games and never really got into a rhythm. I think shooting is about rhythm and confidence. Same thing for AC, really, is that he did have opportunities to play in his first two years but he was playing behind Wes Matthews and Nic Batum and his opportunities on the court were limited. When you’re looking over your shoulder and trying not to make mistakes and putting pressure on (yourself) to make a shot, it’s difficult. I really give it to CJ and Allen, they were ready for this year and they were prepared for it, the opportunity was going to be there. But I think that a lot of players — and you know, you played — is that if the coach trusts me, I’m going to play better. Whether I trusted them or not their first two years, certainly their opportunity was there and I trusted them with the role that they were going to have.”
On his participation in the Men’s Wearhouse National Suit Drive:
“Every year what I do is I go through the closet and knowing that I’m going to get some suits in the fall, I go through and weed out the older ones. There’s certain ones that I do kind of have a special place in my heart for them, but other than that, I just take some of the older suits and the Men’s Wearhouse has a great program with the suit drive to give away suits to people who can use them. I’m kind of a bigger guy so hopefully there’s some big guys out there who are able to take advantage of them.”